Happy birthday to one of my favorite curmudgeons. H.L. Mencken, a journalist and essayist who was known as “the Sage of Baltimore,” was born in Baltimore on Sept. 12, 1880.
Mencken, who died on Jan. 29, 1956, is regarded as one of the most influential writers and critics of the past 100 years, although many of his pithiest warnings have been forgotten or ignored. Here are a few of my favorites:
Government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction in stolen goods.
A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.
The typical lawmaker of today is a man devoid of principle — a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game. If the right pressure could be applied to him he would be cheerfully in favor of polygamy, astrology, or cannibalism.
Where’s a modern-day Mencken when we need him? P.J. O’Rourke may be the closest we’ve got, but frankly, I was disappointed in his latest book, Don’t Vote: It Just Encourages the Bastards. I expected a lot more vituperation than he delivered.